For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. (2 Peter 1:5-7)
As we work our way though this list of Christian virtues, we are considering how our discipleship is like an exercise program. If you want to become a better athlete, it is important to train your entire body, not just one specific muscle group. That’s why multi-sport athletes are typically more fit and more athletic than single sport athletes.
When it comes to our faith, many of us may be content to “get saved” and then “do good” occasionally. But if we stop there, then that’s like going to the gym and only ever doing bench presses. Yes, your arms, chest, and shoulders will get stronger. But you are neglecting the whole rest of your body.
You believe in God. You believe that Christ Jesus is his Son. You were baptized and received the Holy Spirit in your life. Now you are even doing good for the sake of the kingdom. That’s awesome! That’s a great starting point.
But now it’s time to involve your mind.
WHATCHYA THINKIN’ ABOUT?
Peter tells us to add to our goodness knowledge. This is where a lot of Christians check out. It’s at this point that many life-long Christians will throw in the towel and leave the hard study of Scripture to the professionals.
And I get that to some extent. If it’s not your area of expertise, it can be really challenging to know where to start. You can’t really study the Bible if you don’t know HOW to study the Bible. We’ll address that a little later.
But what drives me nuts is when people stop even trying to learn. Increasing in the knowledge of God, knowing Christ, and gaining wisdom are life-long pursuits! You faith must include your heart (emotions), your hands (actions), AND your head (knowledge). To emphasize one to the neglect of the other(s) is to be out of balance in your faith and out of sync with God.
Knowledge is defined as:
1. facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education
2. awareness or familiarity gained by experience of a fact or situation
I believe that as Christians there should be certain things we should want to know more than anything else. Paul and the prophet Jeremiah sum up this desire in the following passages:
I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10-11)
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-19)
For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Corinthians 2:2)
“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the Lord.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.” (Jeremiah 31:33-34)
WITH ALL YOUR MIND
It really does amaze me how much emphasis Scripture places on knowledge, wisdom, understanding, and insight. There is a whole genre of writings in the Bible called “Wisdom Literature.” The ancient Rabbis placed a high importance on memorizing the Scriptures. Judaism and early Christianity were regarded as really “heady” religions.
I think Jesus is our greatest example of this. Jesus lived in the perfect center between the head, the heart, and the hands. Look at what Luke says about the young Jesus:
And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. (Luke 2:52)
Jesus grew mentally, physically, spiritually, and socially. Think about that – if Jesus grew mentally, so should we!
And it doesn’t stop there. Once when a man asked Jesus what he considered to be the greatest command in Scripture, Jesus responded:
‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.‘ (Matthew 22:37-39)
Love God with all your mind. What does that even mean? What does that look like? Your devotion to God must include your intellect. You shouldn’t check your brain at the door when you come to worship or when you go to youth group. Faith is more than just feelings. Faith is more than just actions. Faith is more than just an intellectual belief in something. Faith is the combination of all three.
And then in one of my favorite post-resurrection encounters, the resurrected Jesus is walking alongside a couple disciples heading back home after the Passover weekend. They don’t know it’s Jesus. They still think he’s dead and sealed in a tomb. But then Jesus goes on to explain to them why it had to happen the way it did.
And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (Luke 24:27)
Right after that, Jesus appeared to the rest of the disciples behind locked doors. They were afraid and didn’t know what to make of the events on that resurrection Sunday. He did the same with those disciples as he had done with the original two:
Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. (Luke 24:45)
WE DON’T NEED NO EDUCATION
I always found the double-negative in that statement to be quite ironic. Because we do need education. Theology used to be hailed as the “Queen of the Sciences.” Galileo, Pascal, Newton, Copernicus, and countless other ground-breaking scientists were also men and women of faith. All Truth is God’s Truth. All Wisdom is God’s Wisdom.
So how do we get knowledge, wisdom, and understanding?
First, we need to rely on God who is the source of all Truth and Knowledge and Wisdom. Worship God, honor God, and seek after God. In doing so, he will give you what you need.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7)
Second, we have to study what matters. The subject matter you learn in school is important. But the lessons you learn from Scripture are importanter.
Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Finally, I believe we need to teach each other. Knowledge of God is rarely found in isolation. The Bible was ALWAYS intended to be studies in community – so that you can each shed a new light on a passage, so that you can each share a bit of wisdom or understanding with the others. When we gather together as a body, we share the story of Christ among us and we reveal how God has been at work in our lives.
And honestly, what better way to learn than by song?
Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. (Colossians 3:16)
Some of the earliest recorded teachings of the church come to us in song/poetic form. Songs are the best way to teach each other and to reinforce what we have learned.
Strangely enough, a lot of what I’m trying to say is summed up really well by none other than Ashton Kutcher during his acceptance speech at the 2013 Kids Choice Awards:
As we have done the last few weeks, I’m going to share with you a few ways you can use technology to help you in your search for knowledge. These are YouTube channels that I am subscribed to that help challenge me to learn and to grow. I hope you will find them as useful and encouraging as I have!